There is no regulation prohibiting one from borrowing a friend's address to register as a voter, says an independent polls observer NIEI.
PETALING JAYA: There is currently no regulations governing large movement of voters from one voting constituency to another and this means that no matter the hue and cry from the opposition, the best the Election Commission (EC) can do is to constantly clean-up the list.
According to the National Institute for Democracy and Electoral Integrity (NIEI), the lack of regulations has become problematic even for the EC, as it technically allows for many voters to be registered within the same address.
Which probably explains EC deputy director Wan Ahmad Wan Omar’s frustrated comment to FMT recently when he said: “We have 12.5 million voters; we are cleaning up the roll everyday.
“It is just that we are not living up to the standards of some parties, that is why we are constantly criticised”.
As in the case of all’s fair in love and war, the fight for constituencies in the upcoming general election (GE) is hinging on voter population turnouts on polling day and the sudden spikes in numbers in certain areas have put the opposition on red alert.
The opposition has been continuously harping on the influx of voters nationwide especially in the much contested Selangor state.
They have been arguing that beyond the genuine reasons for the rise in voters – such as development and boundary corrections – there may be more sinister manipulation to the electoral roll by the EC.
An often cited example is Subang, where there has been an increase of 32.36 % of voters since 2008 until the last quarter of 2011.
One of the concerns over the influx of voters is not only new voters who have been registered into this constituency but the movement of voters from other areas into a particular constituency.
Said NIEI’s acting chairman K Shan: “If you look at it from that way, then there could be some cheating but it is hard to say because there are no direct rules of transfer of voters.
“There could be many reasons for the general increase of voters – mobility exercise, rapid development but there is also the phenomena of “pinjam address” where the voters borrow addresses of a friend and register as voters under the said address.
“Say you live in Bangsar but are transferred to Johor, you are not settled yet and borrow a friend’s address to register as a voter. There is no regulation prohibiting this.”
Government agency Mimos recently audited the voter roll for the Parliamentary Select Committee (PSC) on electoral reform and found over 10,000 cases of multiple voters registered under same addresses.
Shan said the “pinjam address” could be manipulated to move a large amount of voters into a single constituency. This technique is known as – cluster voting.
“Cluster voting is done by all parties – be it opposition or government.
“But the EC has not done anything over the matter, there needs to be a major overhaul done, no doubt.
“One of them being a need for new regulations about this ‘pinjam address’ phenomena”, he said.
Many of the areas that saw a spike in voters were opposition held seats – Kota Raja (30.29%), Hulu Langat (25.34%), Kuala Langat (25.69%).
‘Onus on voters to check’
Political scientist Ong Kian Ming, who is currently studying the electoral roll for irregularities, said that these seats were highly contested as the Pakatan won by less than 60% of the majority vote in these areas.
“In some areas like Subang Jaya (state seat) and Serdang (parliament), some of the voter increases are probably due to increases in voter registration and also many people moving into these areas.
“But the tricky part is to differentiate between those genuine voters who actually live in these areas and those who have been registered in these seats even though they don’t live in these areas,” he added.
That proves to be a problem indeed as a recent NIEI and Merdeka Centre study showed that eight percent out of the 2,400 people surveyed could not be identified.
Most of these unidentifiable address were mostly located in urban areas.
The study also found that only a third of the voters with identifiable addresses were still residing there.
“That’s why the onus just does not fall upon the EC but also the individual voter to ensure that the electoral roll is correct,” added Shan from NIEI.
‘It’s still manipulation’
Meanwhile PKR vice-president Fuziah Salleh, who has been unearthing a series of irregularities in the voter roll, told FMT that there is a genuine cause for concern behind the spike of voters.
“We register voters as well, we are well aware of the numbers but the numbers that are displayed does show a high increase.
“The EC will say that there is a high voter registration drive. We have conducted these drives as well but the numbers which are given by the roll shows a much higher increase which raises doubts,” she said.
She added that there were around 10,000 voters registered over a period three months in her Kuantan constituency, but that number did not only translate to voters in her area.
“That number was for the whole Pahang state,” she said adding that some who were even on a holiday there registered during the drive.
Hence she said that the party machinery’s is forced to go to the ground to verify these voters.
But most of the time, they are faced with hostile treatment.
She pointed out the case of Lembah Pantai MP, Nurul Izzah Anwar. The latter’s aides were arrested and released late last month while conducting a voter verification exercise.
She reiterated that the increase may be due to more systematic and notorious manipulation of the roll.